Here is another Cocker Spaniel who guards something that she values, ‘It’s Mine!’
My case stories of Cocker Spaniels that resource guard are attracting more.
Many spaniels have guarding tendencies in their genes. I don’t know why. It will be passed down from generation to generation.
My own Working Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, likes to ‘have’ things. He doesn’t guard them but parades an object around my other dogs like he’s saying ‘look what I’ve got. It’s mine!’. He knows there is no point in doing this with me.
Possibly what might have turned Pickle into a resource guarder who displays some kind of aggression would be how I myself had reacted from the very beginning.
Mollie is different
My latest case, six-month-old Mollie, is a little different from most in that the two main things that seem to activate the guarding in most dogs don’t apply.
The first is the human response.
Confrontation or control of any kind will quickly escalate the situation. Any kind of ‘dominance’ or punishment would need to be extreme to work and could equally push the guarding behaviour into extreme aggression.
Mollie’s owners don’t react in this way at all. We can’t blame human retaliation.
The second usual contributor is arousal and stress.
When the dog is worked up about something he or she will often then fall back on resource guarding as a kind of redirection activity in order to gain some control of his or her emotions. Guarding fulfils a kind of need.
Why does Mollie need to say ‘It’s Mine!’?
She is unusually calm for a six-month-old dog, particularly a Cocker Spaniel. She is affectionate and sweet – until she has something of value.
Where I’m sure arousal and stress does play a part, it’s not big.
So what satisfaction does Mollie get out of ‘it’s mine’?
When they give her a new treat, chew or toy she will first take it away somewhere. Then she may bring it back and lie near to it, watching with those eyes any owner of a resource guarder will recognise.
Then, she may flaunt it. She may push it into them, seemingly to invite play. They oblige.
Guarding requires a threat
We are working on the assumption that in order to guard and flaunt something, you would need another person or animal to be interested. You need to have something to guard it from. A threat.
The couple now will become very good actors! Their body language and actions will show Mollie that they have zero interest in what she has. She will no doubt double her efforts in response.
Molly’s ‘it’s mine’ behaviour has resulted in her biting several times.
On one occasion she was so ‘possessed’ by guarding fever that she was shaking. They tried comforting her. How do they know that their words of comfort weren’t interpreted as words luring her into parting with the resource?
I would have walked out.
This isn’t the place for exact details of our strategies as they are specific to this case.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help